How astronauts could farm on the moon with lunar soil nutrients

A new technique for processing lunar soil may help foster plant growth on the moon in hopes of sustaining more long-term lunar missions. 

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Norwegian lunar agriculture company Solsys Mining have studied ways to treat lunar soil, or regolith, to create fertilizer for growing plants. Previous experiments using lunar samples returned to Earth show plants can grow in lunar soil. However, the lunar regolith lacks certain amounts of nitrogen compounds and becomes tightly compact when wet, which makes it challenging for the plants to take root and flourish. 

By leveraging hydroponic farming techniques, researchers have devised a way to grow plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil by extracting essential minerals from the regolith, according to a statement(opens in new tab) from the ESA. 

"This work is essential for future long-term lunar exploration," Malgorzata Holynska, ESA materials and processes engineer said in the statement. "Achieving a sustainable presence on the moon will involve using local resources and gaining access to nutrients present in lunar regolith with the potential to help cultivate plants. The current study represents a proof of principle using available lunar regolith simulants, opening the way to more detailed research in the future."

Read the entire article at Space

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